You may be able to get Social Security disability (SSD) benefits for heart disease. But because heart disease is a relatively broad term, the process is different for every applicant. Learn more about the process and what the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks for in approved claims below.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease can refer to several different cardiac conditions. However, some common heart-related conditions approved for disability benefits appear in the SSA’s Blue Book. These conditions appear under the listing 4.00 Cardiovascular System – Adult, and commonly approved heart issues include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Ischemic heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
The common thread among all these health issues is calcified plaque. This is a hard substance that builds up in your heart’s arteries (as well as other blood vessels throughout your body). Restricted blood flow is a direct result of this plaque build-up. While heart disease can vary in severity, chest pain is the most common symptom.
How Hard Is It To Get Disability For Heart Disease?
The bad news is that the SSA doesn’t give benefits to everyone with heart disease. In fact, they don’t award it to everyone diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The primary qualifier for disability benefits in any situation is, according to the SSA, “the inability to perform substantial gainful activity.” In other words, your health issue needs to be bad enough to prevent you from working at all for 12 months. If you’ve got heart problems, any kind of physical activity must cause you so much pain or fatigue that you cannot even hold a job where you do everything sitting down.
What Medical Evidence Do You Need When You Apply for Disability?
When you apply for disability benefits, the SSA needs to see a list of your written symptoms. Be sure to include recent tests relevant to your condition. They should indicate all the following apply to your case:
- You perform poorly in exercise tolerance tests.
- Any imaging tests show problems with your heart muscle will help immensely in supporting your case.
- You followed consistent treatments as prescribed by your doctor during the past 12 months. However, these treatments (including any prescription medications) did not measurably improve your symptoms.
Your primary care physician can provide this documentation for you. Still, it’s also a good idea to see a cardiologist.
Your doctor must perform an electrocardiogram and cardiac catheterization to produce your diagnosis of coronary heart disease (also called atherosclerosis). While both these tests can definitively confirm you have heart disease, they aren’t enough to qualify you for SSD. Your doctor should also document the following to submit along with your SSD claim:
- Severe chest pain
- Any history of heart surgeries
- Your attempts to return to work, and what made them unsuccessful
- A list of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you currently take, as well as any side effects
Diagnosed with congestive heart failure? Then you’ll need to fail those same exercise tests and have a history of heart failure or poor ejection fracture.
Bonus Tip: Always list every health problem, whether mental or physical, on your disability application. Nearly 7 in 10 applicants (68%) approved for SSD benefits each year have 3-5 health issues on their claims.
Keep Your Work History and Other Documentation Handy When You Apply
Your medical history is just one component of the documentation you must submit when you apply for disability. You should also include an extensive work history, which should document the following:
- A copy of your current resume
- Your educational background (high school and college graduation dates, if applicable)
- Your current job skills and experience level
- Notes from family, friends, and coworkers detailing how your illness limits your ability to work and perform everyday tasks
Consider writing down as many personal anecdotes as you can, and keep them in a symptom journal. Do you suffer from chest pain or shortness of breath when you think about your disability? These stress-related symptoms are equally relevant to supporting your case! Be sure to prepare those so you can better illustrate how heart disease limits your ability to work.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Applying for disability benefits is difficult enough, but you don’t have to go through this alone. Having a Social Security attorney file your claim paperwork nearly triples your odds for benefit approval. Most people who qualify for legal assistance receive $12,000 in lump-sum backpay as well as monthly benefits. Those who apply on their own without a lawyer typically wait 18-24 months for their first payment, if approved. However, the SSA denies 65% of all claims filed every year, on average.
All disability attorneys work on contingency. That means you owe $0 for legal assistance if the SSA won’t approve your claim. And if you do win benefits, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.